Domestic violence, sometimes called domestic abuse, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence, is used to gain power or control over another person in a relationship. When most people think of domestic violence, they usually think of physical abuse or sexual assault. But relationship abuse comes in many forms, and multiple types of abuse may occur concurrently in an abusive relationship.
Domestic Abuse Defined
The definition of relationship abuse is not limited to physical harm.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.
Is Emotional Abuse Domestic Violence?
Relationship abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to gain—or maintain—power or control over a partner. Emotional abuse is more subtle than physical abuse. The abuser uses non-physical tactics to control, isolate, or frighten their partner.
Emotional abuse can be harder to detect than physical abuse. It is often used to erode someone’s self-esteem and sense of worth and create a psychological dependency on the other person.
In some instances, emotional abuse is more apparent than in others. If your partner yells at, belittles you, or calls you names, the emotional abuse may be obvious.
But, at other times, emotional abuse can be insidiously subtle and challenging to recognize.
You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner engages in any of the following behaviors, according to The Hotline:
- Calling you names, insulting you, or constantly criticizing you.
- Acting jealous or possessive and refusing to trust you
- Isolating you from family, friends, or other people in your life because it can make you easier to control.
- Monitoring your activities with or without your knowledge, including demanding to know where you go, who you contact, and how you spend your time.
- Attempting to control what you wear, including clothes, makeup, or hairstyles.
- Humiliating you in any way, especially in front of others.
- Gaslighting you by pretending not to understand or refusing to listen to you; questioning your recollection of facts, events, or sources; trivializing your needs or feelings; or denying previous statements or promises.
- Threatening you, your children, your family, or your pets (with or without weapons).
- Damaging your belongings, including throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.
- Blaming you for their abusive behaviors.
- Accusing you of cheating or cheating themselves and blaming you for their actions.
- Cheating on you to intentionally hurt you and threatening to cheat again to suggest that they’re “better” than you.
- Telling you that you’re lucky to be with them and that you’ll never find someone better.
- Making threats to hurt you or others to get what they want.
- Insisting you ask for permission before doing something or spending time with other people.
- Monitoring where you go and stalking your whereabouts.
- Not wanting you to work.
- Embarrassing you in public.
- Threatening break-up or divorce to manipulate an argument.
- Wanting access to your phone, your passwords, or your social media.
- Threatening suicide during arguments.
- Making you feel guilty or immature for not wanting to have sex.
- Overloading you with compliments and gifts and then using that to manipulate you later.
Should Emotional Abuse be Reported?
There may be instances when a mandated reporter should report emotional abuse. For example, when emotional abuse is a part of child abuse or elder abuse, that information should be included in a report.
Domestic violence reporting, however, is not always legislated in the same way.
Most mandated reporting laws pertaining to domestic violence are aimed at medical professionals who are required to report only in very specific situations, such as in the case of a gunshot or knife wound.
Oftentimes, reporting suspected domestic abuse can put the victim and/or children in the household in danger of retaliation from their abuser. In an abusive relationship, abuse tends to ramp up and intensify when the victim attempts to get outside help.
If domestic abuse reporting is not mandated in your state, sometimes the safest way to help a domestic violence victim is to get them the resources they need to get themselves out of harm’s way.
How to Get Help for Domestic Violence or Emotional Abuse
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for victims of abuse to get the resources they need. If you suspect you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, the Hotline can be reached by text, call, or online chat.
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Text the National Domestic Violence Hotline: Text START to 88788
- Chat online at thehotline.org
Please note: if your intimate partner regularly monitors your online browsing activity, the Hotline recommends that you call 800-799-SAFE and urges you to clear your browser history after visiting their website.